Overnight Health Care: Study finds sign of long-lasting protection from COVID-19 vaccines | Poll: Nearly 30 percent say COVID-19 pandemic is over in US | Juul to pay $40 million to settle NC lawsuit
Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. If you live in the D.C. area and still have not been vaccinated, you can now see a show and get a shot during concerts at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, courtesy of the Howard County health department.
Today: Juul will pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit in North Carolina. A new study found lasting protection from mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, and a poll shows a growing number of people are done with the pandemic, despite slowing vaccination numbers.
We’ll start with vaccines:
Study finds sign of long-lasting protection from COVID-19 vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna produce a “persistent” immune response and give a sign of long-lasting protection, a new study finds.
Takeaway: The study is a positive development in the discussion around whether booster shots of the vaccines will be needed and when, though there has not been a definitive answer to that question yet.
The study published in the journal Nature on Monday centers on what are known as germinal centers, what Ali Ellebedy, the study’s senior author and an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, describes as “boot camps for immune cells.”
The study found that those training grounds in the body for immune cells were still active 15 weeks after the first dose of vaccine.
“Germinal centers are the key to a persistent, protective immune response,” Ellebedy said in a statement. “Germinal centers are where our immune memories are formed. And the longer we have a germinal center, the stronger and more durable our immunity will be because there’s a fierce selection process happening there, and only the best immune cells survive.”
Poll: Nearly 30 percent say COVID-19 pandemic is over in US
Almost 30 percent of Americans said in a poll released Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic is over in the U.S., as cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped amid vaccinations.
A Gallup poll determined that 29 percent of U.S. adults have concluded the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted the country and world over the past year has ended.
Still, 71 percent said they do not consider the pandemic to have ended.
Republicans are more likely to consider the pandemic over, with 57 percent saying the crisis has ended, compared to 35 percent of independents and just 4 percent of Democrats.
Men are also more likely than women to say the U.S. has gotten through the pandemic, with 36 percent of men and 22 percent of women considering it over in the country.
Growing optimism: More Americans are expressing optimism, as the poll documented a record-high percentage of people, at 89 percent, who said the coronavirus pandemic is improving in the country.
States have been loosening coronavirus restrictions as more residents get vaccinated, prompting a majority of Americans to say this month that their lives are affected “not much” or “not at all” by the pandemic.
Fifteen percent of adults said in the June poll that their lives are completely back to normal, a jump from 9 percent in May.
But: The Biden administration admitted last week that it is on track to miss the president’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults with at least one dose by the Fourth of July. And certain pockets of the country are lagging further behind the national trend, including four states where less than half of adults have gotten at least one dose, according to The New York Times.
Juul to pay $40 million to settle NC vaping lawsuit
E-cigarette company Juul will pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit in North Carolina for allegedly marketing their products to children, state Attorney General Josh Stein (D) announced Monday.
It’s a landmark deal, as North Carolina becomes the first state to settle with the company. Stein in May 2019 was the first state attorney general to sue the company for its role in the unprecedented surge in youth vaping. Juul is now facing lawsuits in at least a dozen other states.
Juul did not admit to any wrongdoing or liability as part of the settlement, but it did agree to change some aspects of how it does business in the state. Under the terms of the deal, Juul’s products must be sold behind the counter at shops, and the company is not allowed to use any individual under the age of 35 in its marketing and promotional materials. The $40 million will be paid over the next six years and will fund programs to help people quit e-cigarettes, prevent e-cigarette addiction, and research e-cigarettes.
“For years, Juul targeted young people, including teens, with its highly addictive e-cigarette. It lit the spark and fanned the flames of a vaping epidemic among our children — one that you can see in any high school in North Carolina,” Stein said in a statement.
Next up: Stein also sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, calling for additional action to ban all non-tobacco flavors, including menthol. Vaping companies are also awaiting a decision from the FDA about whether their products can remain on the market at all. The agency has a deadline of early September to make a decision, but it’s not clear if it will be met.
White House faces calls to embrace vaccine passports
Health experts are calling on the Biden administration to do more to encourage and promote the use of vaccine mandates and passports.
So far, the White House has stayed out of what they view as an issue for private employers.
The Biden administration has repeatedly said vaccine passports won’t be implemented at the federal level but has not discouraged individual companies from making the personal choice of implementing one.
“If a company, a business wants to take steps to keep their workers and their passengers safe, I would think that, from a government perspective, we want to do everything we can to encourage that,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said recently.
There is no way to tell who is vaccinated and who is not without asking for proof, but the federal government has not given any kind of guidance or support to businesses that want to require proof of vaccination for customers and employees.
Motivation required: Polls show that young adults in particular would be motivated to get vaccinated if it was required in certain instances.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s vaccine tracker found about 40 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 would get vaccinated if it was a requirement for large gatherings like sporting events or concerts, flying on an airplane, or for international travel.
What could make mandates easier? Full approval of COVID-19 vaccines
Calls are rising from some experts for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move faster to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines, in what could be a key step to address vaccine hesitancy.
As the vaccination rate lags, with the country on pace to miss President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4, polling indicates full approval could help convince some of the remaining unvaccinated people to get the shots.
Some unvaccinated people view the current emergency use authorizations for the vaccines as an indicator they are still experimental and not fully tested, despite the rigorous process that went into those authorizations.
Pfizer began submitting data for full approval May 7, but it is unclear when the FDA will act, leading to calls to pick up the pace. Moderna applied later, on June 1, for full approval for its vaccine. Like most everything FDA has done throughout the pandemic, there’s a balancing act between urgency and thoroughness.
One potential issue: either the data submission, or review, may not be complete.
Experts said the agency has a large amount of data to sort through, which simply takes time.
“If they hurry it up and don’t complete their review very carefully, that will actually have the opposite effect,” said Jesse Goodman, a former FDA chief scientist now at Georgetown University. “I think that would really undermine confidence.”
What we’re reading
Costly new Alzheimer’s drug could force Medicare to restrict access (The Wall Street Journal)
US ships first Pfizer vaccine doses abroad, donating 2 million to Peru (CNN)
Covid’s lingering effects can put the brakes on elective surgeries (Kaiser Health News)
State by state
‘Middle of a crisis’: In southwest Missouri, health officials urge vaccinations to prevent further spread (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Without enough boots on the ground, California’s vaccination efforts falter (California Healthline)
There’s only 1 drug for postpartum depression. Why does Kaiser Permanente make it so hard to get? (KQED)
Ashish Jha on what Massachusetts got right — and wrong — during the COVID-19 pandemic (Boston.com)
Op-eds in The Hill